Social media: opportunities and dangers

What are the dangers of oversharing on social media?

Brian Acton: People live in a real, not a virtual world

What could be the future of social media in the US and around the world? Is it possible to control and regulate social media? – Estimates by Brian Acton, former Facebook employee, Whatsapp co-founder, head of the Signal Foundation.

Margot Gontard: A traditional question you probably hear a lot: social media is good or evil?

Brian Acton: I think of social media as a technology that is neither good nor bad in itself. People use social media for both good and bad, but technology is not to blame..

M.G: Once you called for deleting your Facebook account. Why?

B.A .: When I tweeted that post, it was my statement that I was taking part in the Facebook deletion movement. Some took this as a challenge. But I just gave advice: if you want to have a Facebook page, this is your choice, but this is not what I would like for myself. I never felt that I needed a Facebook page, I have enough other channels to communicate with people. I decided that I should not give my personal information to Facebook and that the time is right to delete my account.

M.G .: Do you see examples of the negative impact of social networks on people??

B.A .: Yes, I see a lot of similar examples. For example, Instagram allows you to observe the happy life of other people and get upset that their own life is not so wonderful – all these photos with a yacht, for example. This creates a fake experience that makes you feel bad. In my opinion, you should control your consumption, approach it consciously and teach people to understand the positive and negative effects of using social networks. People live in a real, not a virtual world. And we need to realize the need to periodically pull out the wire from the outlet and communicate with each other live in order to better understand what is happening and realize the prospects.

M.G .: What the future of social media will look like?

B.A .: I think of social media as a tapestry woven from different apps and channels. There are large and small areas for communication, public and private. I think people will continue to experiment and create – no matter what they get – social networks for dating or for work. Social media will continue to evolve based on the needs of the people. Perhaps we will switch to other devices and technologies, maybe we will have social networks in virtual reality, where people will communicate in virtual rooms. We already have the necessary technologies for this. Smartphones are not the ceiling in the development of social networks.

I would say that I am a technology optimist. I think people generally do the right thing and make the right decisions. As technology advances, we can better protect people and their communications systems. We will give them more opportunities to discuss sensitive topics. So, in my opinion, in general, there are more good than bad. There is an opportunity to do more good in the world by providing safety and communication channels for people who need it.

M.G .: President Trump has signed a decree making social media companies responsible for messages posted by users.What do you think??

B.A .: Unfortunately, the text of the decree is rather long and is written as if it were a separate law. It will be very difficult for organizations to make decisions when it comes to free speech and sensitive content. It will take a long time for lawyers to figure out how to combine the decree and the existing law, and how to interpret them. Perhaps some cases will reach the court, and the courts will decide. One feels that there is a struggle going on now. I’m not trying to take sides in it, I’m just watching. And I think it confuses people a lot.

M.G .: Will there be more attempts to regulate social media not only in the US, but around the world??

Social media: opportunities and dangers

B.A .: I think Facebook and other companies will try their best to prevent this from happening: they will be self-regulating. That is why they will continue to improve and improve their rules and technologies so that they are not regulated from the outside, be it the US government or the EU. There will likely be attempts to regulate social media, as well as attempts to combat it. It will be interesting to see how it all ends – at least get out the popcorn and watch this movie.

I know from personal experience that regulation stifles industries, slows down innovation, and hinders progress. So, basically, I am against any form of regulation of social networks, especially considering that this touches on the topic of freedom of speech – in this country this is an extremely serious issue. We have a very well protected right to freedom of speech, there should be no difference in the legal assessment of what is published online and what is said in real life. Of course, on social networks you have a bigger megaphone, and there are many subscribers. But I think people should be able to have an open and honest discussion, even on sensitive topics..

We already have established rules and laws, the Constitution and the First Amendment to it. I think that any regulation should be carried out very carefully, with the least harm to public discourse and people’s communication. I haven’t seen anyone suggest anything acceptable yet, so I’m not very optimistic about the outlook for regulation in general..

M.G .: Twitter has effectively taken on the role of a journalist. This is a logical step?

B.A .: It’s hard to just pick and separate one from the other. Basically, the question is whether these platforms should behave like media. I think Twitter is in a sense positioning itself closer to the format of traditional media, so they are more interested in double-checking the facts. At the same time, Facebook is positioning itself more as a place where people can post and comment. When there are two big companies, where one behaves like a newspaper and the other behaves like TV, it confuses people and it becomes difficult to know when to check facts and when not. And in general, it causes misunderstanding among people in America: what to call Twitter now. MEDIA? Media platform? Or is it just a social network? Everything is so vague. And this confusion makes it even more difficult to create laws or regulate.

This is especially difficult in the case of Facebook, because there is advertising and paid content – this is a different set of rules. I think this business model is especially suspicious in Americans now, given the role Facebook has played in the American elections over the past few years. I would prefer that Facebook provide me with a news feed that does not have paid content, or choose a different business model so that I can pay for using the service and not receive paid content or content that appears in front of me at the behest of the algorithm which I did not choose.

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